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Air tricks, Tuskegee Airmen and 40 war aircrafts at Pikes Peak Regional Airshow

August 7, 2014 Updated: August 8, 2014 at 8:19 am
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photo - Tuskegee Airmen. Courtesy Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Red Tail Squadron.
Tuskegee Airmen. Courtesy Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Red Tail Squadron. 

F4U Corsair. F7F Tigercat. B-25 Mitchell bomber. P-51C Mustang fighter.

These World War II aircraft and about three dozen others will fly in from all over the country this weekend. They'll land at the Colorado Springs Airport for the first Pikes Peak Regional Airshow.

"More than half are World War II vintage," says John Henry, a volunteer for the air show. "Some were active into the Korean conflict, and one of these old-timers was active all the way into Vietnam."

The event is Saturday and Sunday, and includes aerial demonstrations by the planes and crews from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. each day, and performances by the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue Parachute Team and The Trojan Phlyers, two combat veteran pilots who perform aerobatic routines.

"Colorado Springs is a community that is so supportive of men and women in the armed forces," Henry says, "that we felt it was a great time to found it here in town, and bring forth a rich aviation legacy that we all have from World War II."

A highlight of the weekend is the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron's traveling Tuskegee Airmen exhibit, a semitrailer that houses a 40 foot panoramic movie screen. The 30-minute documentary "Rise Above" will air throughout the weekend to educate visitors about America's first black military pilots.

Col. James H. Harvey III, 91, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, will be on hand for a few hours each day, spending time at both the Tuskegee exhibit and World War II veterans tent. Harvey won numerous medals for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters. He joined the military in 1943, retired in 1965, and says they didn't realize the history they were creating.

"We just wanted to fly for our country," he says from Lakewood, where he now lives, "and to prove a point: We can do anything you can do, and do it better. I always say we were better, and we proved we were better because we went overseas and finally got a mission to escort bombers. Casualties dropped. And we had the first ever Air Force top weapons meet, and we won it."

A restored P-51C Mustang fighter airplane with a bright red tail, like those flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, will also be part of the air show.

"They put black aviators into a squadron," Henry says, "trained them and discovered this was a tremendously talented group of aviators selected for this special duty."

The Tuskegee Airmen protected the slow bomber planes, Henry says. The bombers were designed to carry heavy loads to targets, drop the bombs and come back. But they were constantly at risk of being shot down by enemy aircraft. Part of the Tuskegee mission was to protect them.

"They (Tuskegee Airmen) developed a reputation for tenacity," Henry says. "They didn't give up. They didn't depart from those bombers. They didn't respond to the enemy's tactics. They would try to draw them off into dogfights, but the Tuskegee Airmen stuck with the bombers, protecting them at all costs. The crews being protected by Red Tails called them Red Tail Angels."

Harvey recently heard an air show attendee talk about the Tuskegee reputation back in the war. "If you see a red tail, don't engage," he says. "Instant death."

"Satisfaction: The International Rolling Stones Show" - 8 p.m. Friday, Stargazers Theatre and Event Center, 10 S. Parkside Drive, $15-$20; 476-2200, stargazerstheatre.com

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